last night, i had a couple of drinks with some colleagues and an irish couple who dropped by penang to take an exam and have a look around malaysia while they were at it. they had an early flight out to kota kinabalu and booked diving slots at sipadan but were otherwise just winging it. my friends and i enthusiastically recommended places to go and things to eat, showing them pictures of durians and mangosteens and giving them a brief history of malaysia. they were intrigued with what we had to say about the country and promised to make several trips back in order to experience everything we’ve told them about.
what moved me was how eager we were to promote everything we loved about malaysia – the food, the diversity, the beauty of our rainforests and beaches. when the couple mentioned they were impressed by the size of gurney plaza, we told them about midvalley and 1utama and were rather pleased when they were astonished at the notion of mega malls in kl. we quickly forgot the earlier discussion about affirmative action and private medical universities and their exorbitant fees. so many other things make malaysia worth the injustice and corruption that plague the nation.
it’s a little sad that we put value in superficial pleasures and stay because we love our families and bak kut teh. everything else feels like a losing battle. perhaps its learned helplessness and we’re coping by looking to the other things that make us happy. we speak fondly of malaysia to our visitors to convince ourselves that it’s not that bad here, that we’re not being cowards by tolerating the other crap.